The von Trapp family from ‘The Sound of Music‘.
Like many people, I was just a kid when I first saw this classic movie. It’s true that it’s a sickly-sweet film – the oldies loved it – but nevertheless it had its own charm for kids. It was the idea of Mary Poppins coming to rescue a gaggle of kids from their overbearing father that did it.
Now of course, we know that the story was only very loosely based on the real von Trapp family and one of the interesting differences was that there weren’t seven children as the movie showed, but ten in total. Maria and the captain had three children after their marriage. Another huge difference is the ages of the children.
You remember (of course you do) the dramatic scene in The Sound Of Music when the family escape from Austria in 1938? Well, in reality the seven performing ‘children’ were aged between seventeen and twenty seven – there was not a cute kid to be seen.
As for the other three non-performing children, Rosmarie was nine, Eleonore was seven and Johannes wasn’t yet born. (He arrived in 1939 by which time the family was in the United States.) These three did grow up to sing with the family though once it was established in America.
What happened to the von Trapp family children?
In order of ages, starting with the eldest:
The eldest child was not Liesl as portrayed in the film, neither was that child ‘sixteen going on seventeen’ at the time the family left Austria. Rupert had been born in 1911 and his ambition, which he later achieved, was to become a doctor. Rupert married twice, had six children and lived in the States until he died at the age of eighty.
The oldest daughter had been born in 1913. It was she who Maria was first employed to teach. She sang with the family until their last performance, when Agathe was forty three (once again dispelling the ‘kids’ idea!) When she retired from singing she started a kindergarten and was even more long lived than her brother – she died in the US at the age of ninety seven.
Maria was born eighteen months after her older sister. She was portrayed as ‘Louisa’ in the film. She too sang for many years and later in life worked as a missionary. Like Agathe and Rupert she lived to a grand old age too – she was almost one hundred years old when she died in 2014.
The first wife of Georg von Trapp certainly kept the babies coming as their next son, Werner, was born less than fourteen months after the birth of his sister Maria. In the States, he joined the Armed Forces during the Second World War after which he became a dairy farmer. He married and had six children. He was yet another long-lived von Trapp – he died aged ninety one.
Hedwig was born in 1917 and she sang with the family until Captain von Trapp died in 1947 and the act was disbanded. She then became a teacher. Sadly she did not follow her siblings into old age – she was only fifty five when she died, the cause of death being recorded as asthma. She didn’t marry and had no children.
Johanna became the newest member of the family in 1919. Unlike her older sisters she married – her husband was Ernst Florian Winter, an Austrian historian. They made their home in Vienna and had seven children. She loved painting and other creative pursuits and ran an organic homestead. She was seventy five when she died of a stroke.
Martina was the youngest of the seven children that the captain has with his first wife. And she was the first to leave, dying giving birth to a still born child when she had just turned thirty years old. The rest of the family were on tour singing at the time.
In The Sound of Music, we are given the impression that the von Trapp family left Austria shortly after the captain and Maria had married. In fact, the couple married in 1927, more than ten years before they left the country. By this time – and they left openly by train not in the cloak-and-dagger way shown in the film – they couple had two children and a third was born when they had arrived in America. They were:
She was born in either 1928 or 1929 (accounts vary). Had she been born in 1928 though, there was no evidence of her mother’s pregnancy on the wedding photographs and Maria would have been within just a couple of months of giving birth had the 1928 date been correct. Rosmarie was a missionary and left no children.
She was born three years after her sister. However, she did marry (in 1954) and had seven children, all daughters.
The family had moved to the States by the time Johannes was born in 1939. (He was the only one of the siblings who didn’t have to apply for citizenship). He married, had a son and daughter and ran the von Trapp family resort in Vermont.
At time of writing, Maria’s three children – Rosmarie, Eleonore and Johannes are still living.
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